Sugar and tooth decay ~ is your healthy diet bad for your teeth?

Healthy diets are all around us – snacking on fruit, aiming for five-a-day, drinking smoothies and fresh juices.  All these things are wonderful for the body.  But as sugar and tooth decay go hand-in-hand, they are a nightmare for your teeth. 

And as a result, instances of tooth decay are increasing.  We here at Clinic 95 see this every day.  So we have gathered together a few thoughts on how your diet affects your teeth.

Fruit and your teeth

Fruit is healthy, right?  Not for your teeth.
Raisins are the worst; they are solid sugar.  And there are seven teaspoons of sugar in ONE pink lady apple.  A fruit snack mid-morning when you or your kids aren’t going to brush your teeth until bedtime is a long time for those poor teeth to be coated with sugar.

Did you know..?

Starchy, refined carbohydrates like chips, bread, pasta or crackers are potentially as harmful to your teeth as sweets. Starches made from white flour are simple carbohydrates which are likely to remain in your mouth and break down into simple sugars. Bacteria then feed on these sugars and produce acid causing tooth decay.

Time for a treat?

BEN  “Decay and plaque rate is currently quite high – fruit snacks and juice are so popular as they are seen as a healthy choice, but they aren’t at all for your teeth – they are just as bad as sweets.
So, like you would limit your child’s intake of candy, limit fruit and juice just the same.  Treat fruit as a treat.  Or at least, have it all in one go.  Have it as a desert, don’t have a bag of apple segments or raisins or grapes to graze on throughout the day – it just means that your mouth is acidic for hours which is a nightmare environment for your teeth.
So any sweet treats, whether it’s candy or fruit, have them all in one go rather than occasionally throughout the day, so you are limiting the number of acid attacks on your teeth.”

Raisins or chocolate?

FIONA  “The worst snack food for your teeth is raisins.  Firstly, they are just sugar, and not much else.  But also, a child will take half an hour to work their way through a treat-sized box of raisins, so the sugar attacks the teeth for longer.
Chocolate washes off the teeth quicker than raisins do.
I appreciate that most of us parents want to do the right thing, and think that fruit is the better option, but raisins are just sticky little sugar bombs - chocolate is better!

Sugar in drinks

SAARA  “What is the most tooth decaying food?  

There is no ‘one’ most tooth decaying food, unfortunately there is a whole range. Typically anything sweet and sticky can do the most damage. Sugar (and even natural fruit sugar - fructose) is really the worst culprit. We recommend checking the ingredients lists on your regular shopping products as there are a lot of ‘secret sugars’ added by suppliers who think that this will make their products more appealing to you.

Both fruit juice and smoothies are highly acidic.  Typically they have pH values of two to three, and any time the mouth has a pH lower than 5.5 the teeth are vulnerable from acid attack.

Soda of course is bad for your tooth enamel but it is also worth bearing in mind that worse culprits are sports and energy drinks which damage the enamel due to their acidity and are usually consumed when you’re dehydrated so your saliva’s protective properties are at their weakest.

So using any sugary drink to relieve thirst and a dry mouth is the absolute worst.  When thirsty or having a dry mouth, drink water to rehydrate.

Researchers who exposed teeth in a lab to the equivalent of an hour of sipping pure fruit smoothies found that the enamel weakened by up to 39 percent. Smoothies often contain highly acidic ingredients like lime juice which can do terrible damage.

Here is some advice from the BDJ (British Dental Journal) following an investigation into the erosive potential of smoothies:

Within the limitations of this study some fruit smoothies have the potential to bring about dental erosion if consumed irresponsibly. This can be influenced by ingredient variations. In order to minimise the risk of developing dental erosion, without removing the claimed nutritional benefits of their consumption, their consumption should be confined to mealtimes.

So there you go.  Sometimes ‘healthy’ isn’t healthy at all for your teeth.

Did you know..?

A single pot of yogurt (particularly if it's one of the 'healthy' low fat ones) – can contain over four teaspoons of sugar.

The taste of fat needs to be replaced with something to make the product palatable, and it's almost always sugar…

Breast milk

FIONA  “This might sound strange, but breast milk can cause tooth decay as it’s so sugary.  Breast milk is designed as a full range of nutrition which stimulates growth until the child can eat.  
Most women give up breast feeding when the kids get their first teeth at around four months, but it’s currently popular to carry on long after this; Mum likes the bond and there’s lots of info about how healthy it is.  But the potential damage to the infant’s teeth is never discussed.  And it should be, as some mothers are breast feeding until their children are two or three.
Although the sugar is natural sugar, it causes just as much tooth damage as ordinary sugar. Parents don’t realize this.  
If you’re breast feeding, try tasting your own breast milk.  It’s sweet and greasy not like oil, but fatty so that you can feel it against your tongue.  That stickiness and the high sugar content make it great for your baby’s growth but terrible for their teeth.  So do bear that in mind when deciding how long to breastfeed your baby for.

If you have concerns about your diet and how it might affect the health of your teeth, why not come in and have a chat with one of our dental hygienists?